Tag Archives: Italian

Fresh egg pasta

Success ! My fresh egg pasta

I’ve had a pasta machine for a while now. My first experience was a complete disaster. My kitchen counter was too thick, so I had to end up experimenting with various sized books to try to clamp the machine to, none of which were heavy enough. The recipe I used was too dry and I wasn’t experienced enough with doughs to understand what consistency I was looking for. And I hadn’t planned ahead and had no where suitable to dry the pasta once it was rolled out. I made such a mess, ended up with horrid dry pasta, and the machine promptly went back in the box and stored.

Call it stubbornness – today I faced my fears and I conquered the machine !

My recipe is a combination of many others (including Jamie Oliver, Bertolli and Mario Batali) – I also had to consider that I am making my dough in hot and humid Singapore, so I think it’s just important to work the pasta dough until it’s the right consistency, adding flour and/or water as necessary, to make it a smooth, elastic dough. And I can’t stress enough how important it is to rest the dough, it becomes so soft and workable once the gluten has had a chance to relax. I have to admit it sure is easier and faster to just used dried pasta, but fresh pasta tastes so different, and making my own pasta gave me such a sense of satisfaction and was so much fun that I’m sure that made it even more tasty.

Ingredients makes enough for 2 hungry people

  1. 200g plain flour
  2. 2 eggs (I use really small eggs (60g) so if you have larger eggs then you’ll need a little more flour)
  3. 3 tablespoons iced water

Method

  1. Place the flour on your counter and make a well in the middle
  2. Crack your eggs in the middle, mix them and then slowly start incorporating the flour from the inside edges of the well
  3. Add the water and continue to incorporate until you can bring the dough together with your hands
  4. The dough at this stage will be very grainy and feel quite dry. This is where you get to channel all your frustrations and anger into the dough as it needs to be kneaded – a lot. There’s no real time I can give you (it took me 10 minutes) but you need to work the gluten so that you get a firm textured pasta, and you’ll know when to stop when the dough suddenly becomes smooth and elastic. I carried on kneading a bit more at this stage for good measure.
  5. Divide the dough into 4 small rounds, wrap in cling film to stop them from drying out, and let rest for at least 30 minutes
  6. Once you are ready and have your pasta machine clamped firmly onto something heavy (preferably your kitchen counter – for me it was my “Toys for Chefs” book!), and also have somewhere ready nearby that is suitable for drying your pasta (trust me you don’t want to have to worry about this when you have a handful of sticky pasta ribbons), set the machine to the first setting, and roll through one of the dough balls
  7. Fold it over and run it through on the first setting and repeat about ten times more. This helps to work the dough more and helps you get that lovely stretchy texture in your pasta
  8. Continue roll the dough through the various numbers on the machine until you have it at your desired thinness. I made fettucine and I like my pasta thin, so I rolled it till it reached maximum setting (9). You may want to have it thicker if you are making something that needs to be a bit more robust, like a lasagna sheet or rag pasta
  9. Dry the pasta ribbons on a floured rolling pin or other surface so that they don’t stick together. You have to work relatively quickly here because the pasta dries quite quickly
  10. When you’re done with all four portions of dough, you’re ready to cook the pasta. As the pasta is unseasoned, you need to heavily season the water you are cooking it in – it needs to taste “like the sea”
  11. What you do with the cooked pasta is entirely up to your imagination (I made a pesto pasta) and I guarantee you it will taste better than you imagined!

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse

Open just three months, Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse on Mohamed Sultan Road specialises in authentic Tuscan cuisine, including bistecca fiorentina – charcoal-grilled T-Bone steak that weighs in at more than 1kg.

The deliciously tender fillet steak

I’d like to go with a huge group of people, just so that we could order everything on the menu. There are plenty of options for non-steak-lovers, but both of us were in a beefy mood, so we decided on the fillet steak instead of the bistecca. We could then order our steaks as we preferred (mine was medium rare, D medium). The beef is organic, dry-aged Australian Wagyu-Holstein. Highly marbled, the thick fillet steak came out perfectly cooked, and so tender you could have used a butter knife to cut through it. And it tasted so good that you didn’t either of the two condiments that each steak comes with. The steaks don’t come with anything – we were recommended the mashed potatoes but decided on char-grilled asparagus with lemon oil which came out as five thick spears, perfectly cooked so that they still had some crunch to them.

Char-grilled asparagus with lemon oil

We shared a starter of heirloom tomatoes, rocket, burrata and parma ham. I think tomatoes are one of the basics that any good restaurant should have access to, and the heirloom tomatoes in our starter tasted like they had just been plucked off a vine basking in the Southern Italian sun. The acidity and sweetness from the tomatoes was perfectly balanced with the creaminess of the burrata, the pepperiness of the rocket and the saltiness of the parma ham.

Chocolate lava cake with candied orange peel

We wisely shared the first course, because we then had space for dessert. I had the chocolate lava cake with candied orange peel and D had the chocolate mousse tart with salty caramel. A small and beautifully sweet way to end a splendid meal.

Chocolate mousse tart with salted caramel

A true taste of Italy that took us back to our recent trip to Florence, this is definitely a place we’ve earmarked to go back to for more.

Bistecca Tuscan Steakhouse
25 Mohamed Sultan Road
Tel: +65 6735 6739


Casa Tartufo

Tajarin – Piedmont-style thin egg noodles with fresh winter black truffles

Any restaurant that features truffles is a winner in my eyes, and we had a chance to sample some of Casa Tartufo’s signature dishes during Restaurant Week. As you walk into the restaurant, you are enveloped by the scent of truffles – always a good thing.

We started with their burrata with a truffle heart, imported from Puglia. Burrata is becoming increasingly popular in Singapore. And to be honest, all the burrata I’ve had tastes incredible whether it is imported or made on-premise (for example at Osteria Mozza). But this is the first I have had with a truffle heart. So when you cut open the burrata, what oozes out the centre is a thick cream of buffalo mozarella and flecks of black truffle. Impossibly good, but a large starter, so I’d recommend it to share, just so you have enough space to fit in more of the food on offer.

Main course was a tajarin – Piedmont style thin Egg-noodles with truffles. Fresh pasta with truffles is fast becoming one of my all-time favourite dishes. If the pasta is done right (which this one was), it acts as a wonderful canvas that can be vividly coloured with the simple addition of truffles. In this case, slices of fresh winter black truffles. This dish differs from the usual pasta with parmesan cheese and truffles in that it came in a broth base. Very different, but universally loved at our table.

Truffle ice-cream with hazelnuts and chocolate

To end the meal we were served truffle ice-cream. Vanilla ice-cream infused with truffles (trust me, it works) on a bed of hazelnuts and chocolate, dusted with crushed cookies. Delightful way to end the evening and tantalising enough for us to want to try to the rest of the menu soon.

Casa Tartufo
Forum Shopping Mall, #01-17
583 Orchard Rd, Singapore 23884
Tel: +65 68364647

Open every day
Lunch: 11.30am to 2.30pm
Dinner: 6.00pm to 10.00pm


Latteria Mozzarella Bar

Burrata with tomatoes and basil on a bed of rocket

I still haven’t come down from my Italian food high/obsession following on from our recent trip to Italy although I do think we’re a bit poorer now for all the white truffles we’ve had since we’ve been back. Lucky they are seasonal !

What isn’t seasonal though, and what is increasingly more popular and appearing in menus across Singapore, is fresh mozzarella, and in particular, burrata.

So we were more than happy to visit our friend Beppe De Vito’s new venture in Duxton Hill, Latteria Mozzarella Bar.

The menu features eleven types of fresh mozzarella that Beppe imports twice weekly from Italy.  D and I tried the knotted mozzarella from Puglia, and burrata, which we asked for served simply with tomatoes and basil. The Puglia cheese was lovely but paled into comparison with the wonderfully creamy burrata.

Rolled pork sausage 

For my main I ordered the rolled pork sausage, and this came as three garlicky, porky snail-shaped sausages with flecks of sweet peppers, on a bed of sauteed mushrooms and a black olive tapenade. Great, earthy flavours combined on a plate.

I ended up doggy-bagging a lot of my main, firstly because the cheese starters were so filling, and I wanted to save space for dessert.  We ordered one to share, and thank goodness because the tira misu is huge.

Add a bottle of prosecco and you have a wonderful and most civilised way to end a Monday. You could just as easily simply work your way through the menu of gorgeous mozzarella.

Latteria Mozzarella Bar
40 Duxton Hill
Tel: 68661988

Opening Hours (closed Sundays)
Mon–Thu: 12pm–2.30pm, 6pm–11pm
Fri: 12pm–2.30pm, 6pm–1am
Sat: 5pm–1am


Panzanella

Panzanella – Italian tomato and bread salad

After last night’s decadent cheese fondue, we had leftover bread which I thought would be perfect for making panzanella – a Florentine salad of bread and tomatoes.

Deliciously fresh and tasty, it made a perfect, and filling, lunch.  It’s important that the tomatoes you buy smell of tomatoes when you buy them. Tasteless tomatoes = tasteless salad.  Equally important is olive oil that you like.  There’s no hiding poor quality produce in this salad.

Ingredients: (for two)

  1. Day-old bread – we had ciabatta
  2. 1 punnet baby roma tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes but into bite sized pieces
  3. 1 clove garlic, minced
  4. 1 small red onion, finely sliced
  5. 1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
  6. 1 ball buffalo mozzarella cheese (I don’t think this is traditional but we fancied some cheese in the salad)
  7. handful of freshly basil leaves
  8. 2 tbs red wine vinegar
  9. 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  10. Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Cut or tear the bread and place on a wide, shallow bowl in one layer
  2. In another bowl, mix all the other ingredients together.  Adjust the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste if required
  3. If you have time, pop the tomato mixture in the fridge for an hour to allow the flavours to combine
  4. If your bread is really dry, then spoon some of the juices from the tomato mix over it first, otherwise just ladle the tomato mix over the bread
  5. Toss the salad after the bread has had some time to absorb some of those delicious juices
  6. Serve with a cold glass of white wine

Il Lido Easter Sunday brunch

Parma ham in rockmelon cups

It’s been a while since we’ve been to Il Lido.  It’s got a much more relaxed atmosphere than Beppe’s other restaurant, Forlino, and I think that allows you to enjoy the food and your company better.

There was a special Easter Sunday four-course brunch served that day. On the menu:

A selection of classic Italian antipasti including zucchini flower stuffed with prawn and gazpacho, parma ham, caprese salad, calamari and asparagus flan.  Every single one of these was absolutely delicious.  A perfect combination and balance of delicate flavours, beautifully presented.  I could have just eaten these for the rest of the meal.  My favourites were the parma ham, which was served in delicate rockmelon cups, and the asparagus flan which was like a souffle of asparagus air.

Pappardelle with duck and orange

For first course there was a choice of homemade pappardelle with duck and orange or pumpkin gnocchi with prawns and pesto.  I had the pappardelle (it’s always hard for me to go past my favourite pasta) and for the first time had duck and orange together.  I know it’s a classic combination (duck a l’orange) but for me the sauce was a bit on the thin side and not robust enough to work with the thick pappardelle pasta.

Atlantic cod with truffle, artichoke and cream leeks

For second course there was a choice of Atlantic cod with truffle, artichoke and cream leeks, spring lamb with creamed truffle potatoes and goose liver sauce or Black Angus beef tenderloin with crispy polenta, Montasio cheese, radicchio and barolo wine.

Surprisingly no-one on our table of ten ordered the beef, so it was fish and lamb all around.  I had the cod and it was cooked perfectly and was tender and flaky, and worked very well with the sweetness of the cream leeks.

Desserts were also very well done with classics like chocolate fondant, creme brulee and meringues and almond biscotti.

Add freeflow champagne overlooking Sentosa golf course and that just about tops a pretty perfect way to spend a Sunday.

Il Lido Restaurant and Lounge
Sentosa Golf Club
27 Bukit Manis Road
Tel: 6866 1977


				

Lasagna

Lasagna for me is pure molten meaty cheesy goodness on my plate.

There are probably thousands of different recipes out there for this but here is mine – it does take some time, because you essentially have to cook it twice, but you can always freeze cooked or uncooked portions and enjoy again later.

For the bolognaise sauce:

  • 600g minced beef
  • 1 large brown onion, finely diced
  • 2 sticks celery, finely diced
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 1 stick fresh rosemary
  • 800g tinned tomatoes
  • 1 tin tomato paste
  • 2 glasses red wine
  • Lasagna sheets
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  1. In a large saucepan, sweat the onions, then add the celery, carrots and garlic and fry over a gentle heat till soft
  2. In the meantime, brown the mince (you can do them in batches – make sure you don’t overcrowd the frying pan or you will end up boiling the mince instead of actually browning the meat and creating that lovely caramelisation)
  3. Add the mince to the vegetables
  4. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, rosemary and red wine and bring to the boil
  5. Simmer gently for anywhere between 1-4 hours

For the bechamel sauce:

  • 600ml milk, heated till scalding
  • 60g butter
  • 60g flour
  • pinch nutmeg
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  1. Melt the butter and add the flour, stirring constantly so you have a roux
  2. Slowly incorporate the milk on high heat, adding in small amounts and stirring constantly (the roux will suck up the milk and it will start with an almost play-doh consistency, hang in there, it turn out right in the end)
  3. Lower to the lowest flame and cook for 6-8 minutes
  4. Season with salt/pepper/nutmeg

To make the lasagna:

  1. Oil an oval or rectangular lasagna dish (you can also use a baking tin) and place lasagna sheets on the bottom
  2. Cover completely with a third of the bolognaise sauce
  3. Top the bolognaise with a third of the bechamel sauce
  4. Add another layer of pasta and repeat twice more
  5. Cover the top liberally with cheddar cheese
  6. Put into an 180C oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling

Why Chef Valentino is a GENIUS

Truffle ice-cream with freshly shaved white truffles

Who else would shave fresh white truffles over truffle/vanilla ice-cream??

In my earlier post on Valentinos, I mentioned that D had loved it so much that he said that Valentinos was where he wanted to have his birthday dinner.  So off we went last night.

Fresh buffalo mozzarella

I had already rang ahead to check if they had any fresh buffalo mozarella that night and was delighted to find out they did.  We had a similar round of starters than we did our first time there – lightly breadcrumbed and deep-fried anchovies, the buffalo mozarella and sweet tomatoes with olive oil and basil, cow’s milk cheese wrapped in proscuitto and pan-fried, and we added a selection of cold meats to make four for the table.

Cherry tomatoes with basil

As before, the mozarella was light and chewy and stringy and milky and all the things buffalo mozarella should be.  Paired with a mouthful of tomatoes and basil and we were transported to our trip to the Amalfi Coast once again.  The cold meats didn’t look like much, but the flavour from the thinly shaved slices of proscuitto, salami and mortadella (something I’ve always wondered about but never tasted) was a perfect way to balance the other dishes on the table.

Porcini ravioli with truffle oil

For seconds we shared two pasta dishes – the porcini ravioli with truffle oil and the house speciality, squid ink pasta in a creamy crab sauce.  The ravioli was just so … mushroomy, for want of a better word.  And the squid ink pasta came in thick ribbons covered with large chunks of fresh crab leg meat, the sauce a mix of cream and tomato and with a hint of heat from chilli.  I couldn’t really taste the squid ink over the flavour of the sauce, so a good thing the sauce was so delicious.

Delicious steak

Mains we again shared two dishes – the veal saltimbocca and a 500g steak, cooked on the bone and medium rare, served thickly sliced over a bed of rocket and tomatoes. Both solidly good.

But I digress.  I am typing all of this as fast as I can just so I can tell you about the special dessert Chef Valentino served D especially for his birthday – truffle ice-cream, with freshly shaved white truffles.  The only time I have seen so many truffles was when we were in Rome at Pietros where they had a tray of fresh black truffles.  Chef Valentino showed us a square bowl full of arborio rice, with the most beautiful smelling truffles dotted on top.  This was how he stored his truffles – in order to further flavour the arborio rice for his truffle risottos.  Another stroke of genius.

White truffles perfuming a bed of arborio rice

He then gave us a martini glass with one scoop of truffle ice-cream – we ate the ice-cream on its own – a rich vanilla ice-cream that actually already tasted of truffles.  Why it works, we didn’t care.  Just trust me when I say it does.  Chef then liberally shaved the fresh white truffles over it and the four of us at our table greedily scooped out spoonfuls of ice-cream with truffles.  There was absolute silence in the room for a few seconds before the exclamations – “mmmmm !”  and “ooooh !” – started of just how good that tasted.

We left happy, full and with a parting shot of Limoncello.  For such an unassuming restaurant, this place rocks.  Apart from the food, the service is just so warm.  Not only is it clearly family run, but clearly the staff are also treated like family, and it really shows.  Add to this the fact that the Chef is an amarone fiend (ask to see his wine cellar!!), means we will definitely be going back again, hopefully very soon !

Ristorante Da Valentino
11 Jalan Bingka
Singapore 588908
Restaurant: 6462 0555

Closed Mondays


Otto Ristorante

Veal ravioli with freshly shaved white truffles

Wanting to catch up with our friends who had lived in Japan and recommended many of the places we visited while we were there on our recent trip, we organised dinner with them at Otto Ristorante at the Red Dot Museum on Maxwell Road.

In the mood for simple pasta, we were wowed into selecting the gourmet degustation menu for three and one at our table selected three dishes from the white truffle menu.  I was in a very indecisive mood and wanted the benefit of small portions of more dishes.

The menu actually draws a lot of inspiration from Japanese ingredients, including sea urchin and scallops – and I started with the carpaccio of Hokkaido scallops.  The scallop itself was wonderfully fresh and paper thin, but the flavours for me left me a little flat.  I didn’t know what the black substance was that was sprinkled over the scallops, first thinking it was caviar, and later finding out it was dehydrated olives.  I think I would have preferred it to be caviar, the flavours were all a bit too delicate for me.

Pan fried foie gras with caramelised onion jam and brioche

Next course was an excellent pan-fried foie gras with delicious onion jam and brioche.  Classic flavours.  Classic dish.  Superb.

I’ve heard that the pastas at Otto are great and I have to agree with everyone on this.  I had a veal ravioli, which was my clear favourite for the night – over the foie gras, suckling pig and a sneaky forkful of my mate’s truffle risotto, which are some of favourite dishes ever.  The veal was melt-in-the-mouth tender, the pasta wafer thin and perfectly al dente, and we had the additional extravagance of having freshly shaved white truffles over them.  YUM.

My friend who didn’t want veal asked to change the pasta for the spaghetti with sea urchin and grey mullet battarga, which is grey mullet roe that has been cured and dried with sea salt and then waxed to prevent further drying.  This dish tasted to me like the essence of Japan – the stronger battarga hit your palette with an explosion followed by the delicate but unique uni flavour that seemed to silkily coat your tongue.

Next dish was steamed sea bass with basil infused fava beans in a white wine emulsion.  This seemed a little flat for me, but only because the previous dish (and my forkfulls from my friends’ dishes) were so strongly flavoured.  The fish was cooked to perfection and I think the three flavours worked very well together.

Final dish was the signature crispy suckling pig, with black locust honey and aged balsamic vinegar.  Perhaps it was because I was already full but for some reason this dish didn’t work for me.  The suckling pug was very well done – tender meat with crispy skin, not too much fat, but the balsamic vinegar seemed almost too strong and tangy, yet I know you need something to cut through the fattiness of the suckling pig.  It was served on top of a bed of baby spinach leaves, which I also didn’t think worked with the slow cooked meat.  Perhaps something more peppery like rocket ?  I’m not sure.

Dessert was a warm chocolate cake / fondant with a vanilla bean ice-cream.  Always a favourite, lots of molten fondant inside.  Can’t go wrong 🙂

It certainly wasn’t a cheap night, but the service was excellent, the wine list solid (although we weren’t told that the bottle of ripassa we started with was the last one they had … until we ordered a second bottle) and the food really very well done.  I would happily go to Otto next time I have a simple craving for pasta.

My only complaint is their atrociously over-designed website.

Otto Ristorante
28 Maxwell Road, #01-02
Red Dot Traffic Building
Tel: 6227 6819

Open lunch and dinner Mon-Fri
Dinner only Sat
Closed Sundays


Valentinos

Tucked away in the back streets of Bukit Timah is Ristorante Da Valentino, which my friend C who took us there described as “charming”.  And boy was she right. Small, clearly family run and loved, you are warmly welcomed to your table amongst a nice buzzy ambiance.  The waiter tells you the specials of the day – that night, a lot of produce flown in from various parts of Italy, all of which sounded so good we ended up ordering five antipasto entrees between the three of us.

Never, even when we were in Italy, have we tasted produce like this.  The food was simply prepared, and when the produce tastes this good, you don’t need to dress it up.  First came anchovies  – lightly floured and fried, on a bed of salad, simply dressed with a squeeze of lemon.  I love love love small fish anyway, and anchovies are one of my favourites, so this was easily going to be a winner.  The next two were tomatoes from Southern Italy – they were small like cherry tomatoes, and dressed in olive oil and a few shavings of basil – and the flavour in them was almost ridiculous.  THIS is what tomatoes are meant to taste like – intensely sweet and savoury at the same time.  These perfectly accompanied fresh buffalo mozarella.  And again, neither D nor I have had the pleasure of sampling buffalo mozarella like this.  It was almost like it had just been molded – a big white, voluminous cloud of cheese dressed with olive oil, which the waiter cut at our table, and you could see the milky goodness ooze out of it from each cut.  OH MY GOD.  Heaven.  We also had the tormino cheese wrapped in proscuitto and pan-fried – the cheese was a little too “tangy” for my liking – I kept thinking of goat’s cheese, which I really do not like.  Oh, and how could I forget the ham ?  Homemade on premises, served thinly shaved with a warm prosecco sauce.  Delish.

Freshly baked ciabatta was served along with all of this, crisp and sliced thinly, so you could dig out the anchovy pesto from the small ramekin that they gave each person.

We were so full after the antipasta that we ended up just ordering pasta for our mains.  I had the linguine aglio olio with tartufo which, even as a garlic lover, was a little overgarlicky for me – there was about one bulb of pan-fried garlic pieces throughout the linguine and hardly any tartufo.  C and D had the porcini ravioli with tartufo and perfumed with truffle oil.  I think that was the winner, but D was so enamoured by it he only remembered to offer me some after he’s eaten most of it and I was soooo full by then.

We couldn’t even think of dessert, but Valentinos also has the most astounding array of amarones that I’ve seen, ranging from $100 – $2000.  C had taken us there especially for amarone, but the waiter recommended a Valpolicella from Dal Forno, Romano.  D absolutely loved it.

In fact, D loved the whole meal so much, it’s on his birthday dinner list (the unlaminated version).

We’ll definitely be going back if for nothing else for the mozarella and tomatoes – which you should ring ahead for because it’s not guaranteed that they will have any that day…

Ristorante Da Valentino
11 Jalan Bingka
Singapore 588908
Restaurant: 6462 0555
Fax: 6462 2247
Email: ristvale@singnet.com.sg